Sometimes my tree pose isn’t as still or graceful as I’d imagined it would be. I often look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And, that’s ok.
Ah, holiday season. It’s that time of year filled with excitement and celebration, the extreme sports of dodging shopping mobs and family conflict, widely considered as the most stressful time of the year. However you celebrate, or perceive this time of year, how do you find your balance? I’m going to let you in on a few little secrets. *BONUS: These secrets can be used any time of year.
secret#1: Make time for YOURSELF
You may be laughing at this, but it is possible! If you can’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else. Even a short amount of time dedicated to yourself can help alleviate stress. It may feel like there is no time to squeeze in another activity, but small changes can make a big difference. A small act of self love like a walk outside, or a quiet cup of tea or coffee before your day can help you focus (as opposed to non-stop rushing, ordering on the go, haphazardly spilling your drink, and enjoying maybe some of it).
The way for me to find balance has been quite literal, by taking time out for myself through yoga practice. Sometimes this means practicing a few yoga moves at home. Even during stressful times, somehow it isn’t always easy for me to show up to the mat.
secret#2: SLOW DOWN
Funny how to gain momentum, we have to slow down. When I have taken a break from my practice for too long, I can take extra care to re-establish my form in fundamental asanas (poses). One pose I will talk about specifically in this post is, surprise, tree pose! This fundamental asana is extra special to me for a few reasons.
secret#3: Trick yourself
Ok, trick, motivate, center, call it what you want, but the key here is to identify subtle cues to set your self up for success. What instantly makes you feel better? What do you avoid? Viewing what we avoid with a sense of pleasure or reward can help to rewire our thinking, to help build positive patterns in our life.
Sometimes when I come to a yoga session I don’t want to be inside or on a mat at all. I don’t always want to be guided. I just want to see the tree. Not the giant glowing tree in Zilker Park (which has its own charm and sea of admiring heads for that matter). Not just any tree. The tree. If you have been to Sanctuary Yoga before, then you know the one.
Tucked away between city blocks with glowing neon signs, billboards, and ever shifting construction sites, you will find the tree. The tree is infamous to locals, but curiously remains a best kept secret.
There is no mistaking the towering oak, propped up with a pole to prevent crushing the bright blue house as you approach the Sanctuary. Finding a place that makes me happy simply to visit is my trick. Ok, so maybe I’m going out on a limb to call this place a best kept secret. It just feels magical to retreat into such a tranquil atmosphere in a hustling bustling urban environment.
Beloved yoga teachers I adore you. My practice would not be the same without you. Another way for me to balance my practice is to allow myself to learn from multiple sources.
I listen to my body first. I listen to nature for cues, sometimes simply just to listen. Sometimes it isn’t natural, but we must remember to listen to those who have taken a similar path ahead of us. While we all have our own private path, we share the journey.
Lastly, if all else fails to get you in the flow, a good playlist never hurts. You can reset your mood, unwind, do most activities, (such as yoga) to any music that you love. It doesn’t have to sound like you’re at a spa! Here is one of my favorite songs to jam out to, to do Vinyasa Yoga to, anywhere, anytime. The energy of this song always puts me in a good mood. Sometimes to get away from it all I just go for a walk or run with some headphones.
“Dead leaves and the dirty ground, when I know you’re not around…” -The White Stripes
These lyrics remind me that standing on your own can be empowering yet lonely. As our seasons shift our impermanence is hard not to notice. This is another reason I love that tree so much. And yes, I have hugged a tree before. It was glorious. So for me, to see a giant twisted oak tree that has survived in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities gives an extraordinary sense of comfort. Seasons will pass, but with balance we can stay grounded.
We learn by repetition. Drop by the Sanctuary Yoga studio to get your flow on, or practice at home with the tutorial below!
HOW TO DO TREE POSE
Tree pose, also known as Vrksasana, is a fundamental Hatha Yoga Asana that will help you find your balance by standing on one foot, establish strength and balance throughout the body, helps you find your center, and will leave you feeling grounded.
Begin standing on both feet, with your arms at your sides. Bring your ankles and toes in to touch.
Imagine a straight line running through your body, from the inner arches of your feet, through the crown of your head. This is your stream of energy, to help you find alignment.
Bring the palms of your hands together at the center of your chest, your heart center. Your fingers should be pointing to the sky, and not interlocked.
Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee and guide it upward into your chest. Keep the spine long.Reach down to clasp your right ankle with your hands.
Place the sole of the right foot to the inner left thigh or calf. Be careful not to place your foot on your knee to prevent injury.
Tilt your hips toward the floor to stand taller, forward, or back, or to the side to help your alignment. This will vary by your personal needs.
Set your gaze on something in front of you in the space that is not moving. This will help you maintain your balance.
Press your right foot even deeper into your left thigh, and your left thigh tighter toward your right foot. Imagine you are squeezing something between them , or that you are standing on a rock, holding an important piece of paper between your foot and thigh, over a stream of water.
Square both hips forward, to the front of the space. Keep your right knee from moving further outward to the right. Here, you may play want to challenge yourself by releasing your arms while holding the pose. Release your arms however you feel comfortable. Release one arm for “cactus arms”, both for a full tree.
Repeat on the other side. Remember to breathe.
If you begin to fall, it’s ok! Take a deep breath, re-establish your roots, and firmly plant your feet. Find your alignment, your center. Go through the steps again. Each side may have significantly different qualities or sensations. Hey, maybe some of you are more the Christmas Cactus type.